Friday, 30 August 2013

It Was Only a Kiss, It Was Only a Kiss

How could I have been so stupid? How?!

The internship was going so well! The work I was doing was getting some great feedback, people were smiling at me around the office and asking those typical questions one gets in the offices. Questions like "So, did you have a good weekend?" and "... So, what are you up to this weekend?". I even was invited to a couple of meetings in the boardroom. The boardroom! That's no place for an intern to be sitting! That's for, well, the board! Clearly I was moving in the right direction. 

But then it all came crashing down. 

It was a balmy, Thursday afternoon. I had prepared for the day so well. Ironed trousers, ironed shirt, polished shoes, combed hair, clean shaven. I was ready to rock the very foundations of the world of business. The morning was just a blur of quick-fire jobs, people's recommendations, and the promise of more work beyond my original time at the company. I was here to stay and make the most of it! I'd even upgraded to a new chair- one with arms and wheels, and a back which doesn't itch my delicate skin. 

Pleased with a morning of sheer excellence, I took lunch a little later than usual, so keen was I to not break the momentum I had built up. At two o clock, I afforded myself a little, well deserved pause. 

That's when things started to go wrong. 

I was on my way to the shops to pick up some chicken, because, for some reason, I left the house this morning with a chicken caesar salad, minus the key ingredient, a lollypop, because I am five years old, and a milkybar, for the same reason. I received an email, with another little bit of work for me to do on it, from a woman in another department. A young woman, who I'd had a little contact with before, but this was something that we would be working on quite extensively. I see the email arrive on phone (because they can do that, these days), and I reply promptly.

'Yeah, that's fine, I'll have it all ready by tomorrow for you.
JB xx'



I have made a big bloody mistake. 

Kisses on an email?!

This is not a friend, this is not a chat, this is a bloody colleague with some bloody work for bloody me, and I've gone and sent kisses at the end of my email! What the HELL did I do that for? I have sent an email to a work colleague with kisses on the end, and there is nothing I can do to rectify it! I'm stuck in the middle of a supermarket, holding some chicken, staring at my phone like an idiot, completely dumbstruck at what I have just done. 

I quickly calculate the scale of my disaster: by the time I have paid for the chicken and pork pie (by the way I also bought a pork pie, pot-bellied demon that I am), she will have told the woman next to her. By the time I have left the store, the woman next to her will have told the people around her. By the time I'm out of the car park, her whole department will know. By the time I get back to work, the whole damn office will know that James Brittain is an absolute sleaze who will send kisses on emails to whoever he goddamn pleases. By the time my boss returns from London, I will be out of a job, I just know it. I imagine myself returning home to see all my clothes slung out of the window, and a note from the missus saying "Saw what you did on the news, we're fucking finished" attached to my pulverised xbox, and my guitar hanging by it's strings from the tree in my garden. 

This would never have happened if I hadn't answered that stupid email with my phone. I text with my phone, and I send kisses on the end of texts! I must have automatically thought I was sending a message to somebody close to me. What an idiot! Because of one silly little error, I will now forever be branded as the office bike. That's it- I can't go back to work. I can't show my face in there, the shame would be unbearable. The heated glares would burn the hairs on the back of my neck, and melt my cold shame, reducing it to a puddle right by where I was standing. 

I slide in through the back door at work, head bowed away from eye contact, and quickly sit down. I open up my salad, add the chicken, and set about wolfing it down as fast as I can, so I can just get back to work- at least that was going well for me. A part of me hoped that I would be judged for my work, but that quickly vanished, because I'd picked the worst food to eat in a sexual harassment crisis. 

My chicken caesar salad was in a tupperware box in the office fridge, I'd also brought a yoghurt from home, and there was that pork pie. None of this food was particularly helpful to my cause. The chicken pieces I had purchased were far too big, and I'd only brought a fork with me. Not wanting to risk another walk to the kitchen, I soldiered on, cutting all my food with the fork, until I exerted to much, and a sauce-stained leaf of spinach flew out of my box and onto the laptop that work had given me. I quickly wiped it off with a napkin I'd saved from Burger King (times are hard...) and got back to eating.

It wasn't until three mouthfuls later when I spotted a rogue bit of salad on the desk next to me, right in front of another colleague. Before it had even registered in my mind, I broke into a sweat. Had she heard about the sexting-scandal? Did she think this was my way of finding a reason to move my hand over to her desk? If she did, she hid it well as she carried on with her work. I, faced with the biggest dilemma of my professional career, decided to use the same Burger King napkin (times are really hard...) to wipe it away as subtly as I can, whilst I mumbled something which sounded absolutely nothing like the word "sorry". 

Wondering quite how the past 45 minutes had ruined four weeks of hard work so effectively, I moved on to the yoghurt. There's nothing remotely incriminating about a yoghurt is there? The missus had bought a pack which was rather delicious and healthy- guilt free in every way. I peel the lid off and stir the pot to get in all those bits at the side that don't stick to the lid, but aren't the same texture as the rest of the yoghurt. Saying that, quite a lot HAD stuck to the lid... I couldn't help myself.

I lick the lid, while at the same time look around to make sure nobody was watching. 

Somebody was watching, another female, and I catch her eye. 

Now I'm somebody who's looking at another woman, licking the lid of a yoghurt pot, with an odd look in my eye. I know what the look is- it's one of sheer panic and complete and utter fear for not just my job, but also my life, but how is she meant to know that? I try to blink and break the contact, but it's such a half-hearted effort, it involves just one of my eyes. Was that a wink? There is no recovery from such a situation. I have just single handedly written my own death sentence with one flick of my tongue. 

For the rest of the afternoon, I do not utter a single word. Typing frantically, and looking incredibly busy. I don't think it fooled anybody- interns aren't meant to be busy. Their sole responsibility is remembering who has what in their tea (which, since the fiasco mentioned in a previous post, I hadn't even bothered to do). High-flyer that I am, and my 'U' in Maths can vouch for that, I had set myself one goal when I arrived at this job: don't fuck it up. It looked like I was going to fail quite spectacularly. 

I check my inbox for any more work/lawsuits. 


I'm starting to get quite hungry again as the day draws to a close. But I can't eat that lollypop- the Sultan of suggestive foods- and the milkybar was devoured in a quick toilet/uncontrollable sob break 45 minutes ago. The pork pie would have just spoiled my appetite for dinner. Oh God, I'm bloody starving! 

I head over to the kitchen to grab some water- oh god, she's walking towards me. The victim of my lurid advances is walking straight towards me. I brace myself for a barrage of abuse.

"Hi James!"


I knew it. She so fancies me.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Internal Affairs

It's August, but you probably already knew that.

I've finished my first week of an internship at a company in Cheltenham, and it's gone fantastically. Finally there's a structure to my day, rather than waking up late in the morning, hungover, looking at a barely functioning clock and moving the hands so it said half past five and pouring myself a drink. 

No. I am up at 7am sharp, ironed a shirt (thank god for Wiki-How eh?!), hop in my modest car, commute (it takes about an hour) and arrive proudly into my new place of work at 9am sharp. I look around, and take it all in. Finally I am around people who do not want to spend their time slung over a urinal spluttering a concoction of WKD, pizza and blood while singing "Afternoon Delight". These people are a professional group of individuals, whose brains I can pick for valuable life and career advice, people who enjoy a light-hearted joke around the coffee machine without getting out of hand and all "Jimmy Savile" this and "make me a sandwich" that. People who prefer to ask "Did you hear that piece on Radio 4 this morning? More positive news like that from the Bank of England and we'll have a fantastic final quarter", rather than somebody who bounds into my personal space like a dog with a tennis ball and screams "ROOOOONEY!! WHAT A FUCKING GOAL, did you see it last night?!" It is vital that I make an excellent impression with these people. Relationships I forge here out of the fires of marketing excellence could last a lifetime. It is imperative that I do not insult, be rude to, or even ignore any one of these employees who have graciously made room for me to fit in. 

I'm shown around and I meet and greet a few people. I say hello politely, shake a few hands, and am shown to my desk, and say hello to the people who are working in close proximity to me. I've nearly met everyone I need to, except for a man working at the end of the row, who was intently typing away with purpose. He pauses for a moment, looks up. I nod at him. Realising that he's not going to get a jovial "hello, nice to meet you" out of me, he decides I'm a prick (I can tell), and goes back to work. I realise that, eventually, I'll have to join him in doing some work. I've been applying for jobs and talking about doing work for nearly two months. My time as come. Zero hour is closing in. Eventually, I will be sitting at a desk producing work which will make somebody very rich. I say somebody because, let's face it, it's not going to be me. 

I start the computer, am given my task, and look up at the screen. 

"How about a cup of tea, James?"

It's my boss, standing by my desk, offering me, an intern, a cup of tea. A boss, offering an intern a cup of tea. What kind of sick, topsy-turvy world had I stepped into?

I graciously say yes, and by doing so instantly put myself in tea-debt. The intern simply HAS to make more teas than everyone, otherwise, what's the point in employing one? I'm not a huge tea drinker anyway, I have a coffee in the morning from my cafetiere, and possibly a herbal tea in bed when I'm reading a book, but that's only because I wish I was 65. Why did I accept this ridiculous offer? It's unheard of, it's unethical- it's blood tea. Tea which somebody has needlessly suffered to obtain for my pleasure. The guilt is surging through my body, is this a sackable offence? Have I brought, not just the company, but the whole concept of internships into disrepute? It probably wasn't even an offer, it was a test. A cruel test they make all interns suffer, like an initiation, but without forced diet of an onion, cinnamon powder and bovril.

His phone rings and he's delayed. It must have been an important call, because he sits back down and starts writing and looking at an accompanying email. Sensing the opportunity to claw back some kudos, I leap up out of my chair, expose the white socks I'm wearing with black shoes and black trousers which are becoming a little too short in the leg (shamone!) and head over to the kitchen. 

Then I remember a chilling fact from my youth. 

cannot make a good cup of tea. 

For about 17 years, wool was pulled over my eyes to hide me from this, frankly, hurtful truth. For my whole youth my family have accepted tea from me, smiled, taken a sip, said 'nice one, James!' and died a little inside. Finally, my parents broke the truth to me by calling me into the dining room to discuss it, which is never a good sign. Suddenly the dining room table, where I've enjoyed many a hearty meal turns into a conference table, like we're in The Apprentice, and I'm the project manager who was in charge of the Shit Tea Task. It was too tearful to repeat to you here. No British man should have to suffer like I did. I may use whatever money I have in my will to open up a foundation to rehabilitate those who have been told they do not make good cups of tea. But how can you learn how to make a good cup of tea? It's like having the courage to run down the high street naked; you either have it or you don't. Right now, I know which one I'd take.

The memory of my 'firing' was all too clear in my mind as I handed my boss the tea I had tried to make him. Embarrassed, I leave it on his desk behind his phone, laptop, several stacks of paper and a booklet, hoping he won't see it, and scuttle off to my desk, avoiding eye contact with everyone. 

Sadly, he notices it, and thanks me. I nod, knowing that in about four seconds he'll be wishing he had just worked from home today. 

He takes a sip, looks at it for a second, takes in what he has just taken in, and leaves his desk. If he returned within 20 minutes, I either didn't notice, or simply couldn't see him with my head in my hands. Still, at least he'll never ask me to make another one. Ever. 

But enough tea drinking- to work! 

The my screen is still relatively empty. I look around and see everybody busy at work. I look back at my screen and am completely lost in the white light coming from it-what-the-hell-do-I-write-Jesus-H-Christ-I-know-NOTHING-about-marketing-why-did-I-study-politics-for-three-years- 


The man at the end of the row, just two seats away from me, sneezes, and nearly everybody says "bless you". I, however, was so entranced by my screen it took me a couple of seconds for the sneeze to even register, and by then, the moment to say "bless you" has gone. A late "bless you" is worse than no "bless you", because if you don't say it, people just think you're a die-hard atheist who has completely ejected religion from your life. Receiving a late bless you is like receiving a gift card for Ann Summers- it's no bloody use to me at all.

But he clearly hasn't seen it like this. For him, it's better late than never, and I just curled out a solid "never" on his front lawn. He glares at me again, and gets back to work. 


Whatever he expelled from his nostrils must have been contagious, because moments later, the man directly next to me sneezes. I am prepared for this, and I don't want it to sound like boasting, but I was first in with the 'bless you'. So enthusiastic was I with my blessings, I ended up being louder than the initial sneeze was. People from other desks were looking at us now, as if they'd just walked into the stationary cupboard and caught us in a moment of intense passion.  Worst of all was the glare from the man who, not 2 minutes ago, I had completely sneeze-snubbed. Maybe I was reading too much into it, but it appeared to be a look which said "Okay, you little intern punk. You've just made your first enemy here, good luck fitting in."

But I have to make a stand with the "bless you"s. How far away does the sneezer have to be for it to be acceptable to send a "bless you"? Is there an acceptable distance, like holding the door open for somebody who's a fair distance behind you? If one person sees me dishing out "bless you"s like sweets at a sale, the whole situation will just get out of hand. I'll be harassed by people from different departments for my silence. If I even hear a whisper of a sneeze from the four corners of the office, I'd have to send an e-mail to everyone in the office.

I consider writing a draft and saving it. I could probably send an e-mail quicker than most could react to the sneeze. It's something that nobody expects... Nobody, until now. I am no longer a rude intern- I am a genius of manners and courtes-


I sneeze.

Nobody says bless you.

I deserved that.